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Self-proclaimed “American by Birth, Southern by the Grace of God”, a retired USA State Police Lieutenant with broad experience in SE Asia and China, David will focus on Online Obsessions and Real Relationships: Navigating Chinese/Western Cross Cultural Relationships. He'll share his and others experiences in internet dating, social networking and real life dating in China. Typically American, he will bring you the upside and downside of East/West relationships openly and directly. He hopes both genders can gain some useful knowledge from his blog as well as a few laughs.
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Chinese Matchmaking- The Low-Tech Way Part I    

By David Lee
4379 Views | 1 Comments | 6/1/2010 10:37:15 PM
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Blues Brothers-They're On a Mission from God

Like many people, I usually spend my off days relaxing, surfing the internet, meeting friends, doing my weekly shopping or taking care of errands. Occasionally, I get off my dead ass and take a day trip outside of Chengdu or go to some of the popular outdoor venues that abound in this city renowned for its “Relaxed lifestyle”. Spring was definitely in the air Saturday May 22, 2010, so what to do on such a beautiful warm and sunny day? Decisions, decisions… Yes! I’ve got it! Ren Min Park near Tianfu Square would be my destination.

Now some of you local people and foreign expats familiar with Chengdu might ask “Why Ren Min Park on a beautiful Saturday afternoon? It’s sure to be crowded and besides, there are better places to go.” Maybe, but this day I was on a mission. No, not like the famous line from the 1980 hit movie The Blue Brother’s, “They're not gonna catch us. We're on a mission from God”. No, No…this was more of a self-serving and less noble mission than Jake and Elwood were on.

Mission? What mission you’re probably asking yourself. Well, I’ll give you the background first. If you follow my Blogs and comments you’ll probably notice I like to write from my life experiences, those of other expats in China and, maybe more importantly, those experiences of my Chinese adult corporate business English students. I am not a “Self appointed expert” as I’ve been accused of by a few who don’t take the time to read or listen to me carefully. On the contrary, if I don’t have some firsthand information or facts, I’ll take the time to research not one, but numerous credible sources on the internet or elsewhere and confirm them myself whenever possible. Such is the case here.

About four months ago, the subject came up in one of my classes about Internet dating and matchmaking. Then one of my students mentioned Ren Min Park in Chengdu and the low-tech method Chinese parents and/or grandparents employ to find a husband or wife for their child. The entire class broke-out in laughter, not because they didn’t believe it, but because it was true and they all knew it. I’m sitting there with a puzzled look going “What? What?”, so they explained in more detail about this way to meet Chinese singles since I was obviously clueless resulting in more chuckles and laughter.

It seems that in major parks across China such as Peoples Square in Shanghai, Zhongshan Park and Zi Zhu Yuan Park in Beijing and Ren Min Park in Chengdu, it is common for Chinese parents and/or grandparents to post public notices seeking a match for their unmarried children. The notices, a CV or resume` if you will, include the candidate’s basic information on age, height, job, salary and some details on their expectations for a suitable mate. Usually, there are no photos, so this is blind Chinese matchmaking at its best, or worst, likely to shift most of us into high gear “Haulin’ ass in the opposite direction.

In ancient China most young people were married with the help of a matchmaker and the arrangements of their parents. The man's family, accompanied by the matchmaker, would visit the girl's family to confirm each other's position. The step is called xiangqin, literally meaning mutual familiarity or to confirm attitudes. There are tens of millions of single people across China’s cities and many of them are women, so the traditional practice of xiangqin with well over a thousand years of history is apparently alive and well in modern Chinese life.

Chinese don’t give this unique cultural curiosity anymore thought than they do about people walking the public streets at all hours in their pajamas. My students naturally were curious as to my interest in this common event (or non-event in their mind), so I had to explain this would be virtually unheard of in the USA or most Western countries.

Yes, I know before the Internet, and even today, people place ads in the personal sections of newspapers and other publications seeking dates and long term relationships. There is even the occasional brave person who spends big bucks to rent a billboard in a high traffic urban area advertising for a mate. But parents or grandparents sitting in a public park hawking their kid like fake DVD’s or possessions for sale in a Saturday morning garage sale? No way Jose! Not even if you begged them to!

I could just imagine what my Father would have said thirty years ago. “Hey Dad, I need a wife. Will you go down to the park Saturday and Sunday afternoon and sit there with this notice I prepared describing myself? Maybe you can find me a real hot-to-trot Babe! I know you planned to watch college football and play golf this weekend, but Pleeeeeeeeeease!!”

Yes, you probably guessed the response, “Boy, are you out of your ever-lovin’ GD mind? I’m not your pimp. You been drinking again with Grandma? Get the hell outa here or you’ll be living in the park!”

Remaining intrigued by this Chinese matchmaking phenomenon reported to be right in my very own backyard, it was virtually a no-brainer as to what I would do on this beautiful spring day. It was quite reminiscent of the famous scene in the 1971 hit movie Dirty Harry when the wounded bank robber gave it up when contemplating making a play for his shotgun while staring down the barrel of Inspector Harry Callahan’s Smith & Wesson .44 magnum revolver. After surrendering, but still not knowing for sure if Harry had any live rounds left in the chamber after the wild shootout, the robber said “I gots to know.” Same for me…I surrendered to curiosity and had to know firsthand about this aspect of Chinese culture.

With Le, my trusty Chinese assistant and spy to be in tow, I set out for Ren Min Park with much anticipation and wondering to myself if I would find any of these real-life Chinese matchmakers. My research and information indicated Sunday was the favored day, but I had to work Sunday afternoon, so today it was.

After a short taxi ride we arrived at the West gate of the Park, but where to go first? The sounds of loud music, singing, children playing and people chatting abounded. It was the Chinese equivalent of the Western “Three-ring circus”. We made our way through the throngs of people through a narrow patio area crowded with stereotypical Chengdu tea-drinking Chinese. Almost immediately I spotted the prize staring me in the face. I was exhilarated similar to the movie character Indiana Jones first seeing the famed lost biblical artifact The Ark of the Covenant in the 1981 Blockbuster movie Raiders of the Lost Ark.

The surprise ending to this story will be published in Part 2- Chinese Matchmaking- Low or High-Tech? Also, if you haven’t taken one of the short ten question tests recently posted on my Blog either for Chinese Women or Western Man’s Success Predictor, please do so before the Scoring Key is posted soon. It might just give rise to a new buzz question in CLM online chats and messages, “What’s your score?” Try it.

Copyright owned jointly by Author and CyberCupid Co., Ltd. Breach of copyright will be prosecuted.
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#2010-06-03 15:35:51 by woaizhongguo @woaizhongguo

First, glad to know another Stooges fan. I plan to make it back to Chengdu this fall and hope we can get together.

I didn't know about the matchmaking activity at Renmin Park and look forward to the conclusion of the story. However, I did have a personal encounter this March in Chengdu when a married friend tried to set me up with an ex-student of hers. We were all four to go out to dinner. But beforehand my friend sat me down and made sure I understood the rules. Most important was that during the dinner I was not to mention the fact that we were on an arranged date. This struck me as very Chinese. In America we would probably mention the uncomfortable reality as a way of dealing with it, while in China the point is often not to state the obvious out of deference to face.

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